VILLE HEINOLA, 18, D (Luuko, SM-liiga) 29 GP-0G-7A
I've been over to see Ville only once because he got sent back (to Finland) just before Christmas when he went to the World Juniors. I think he had a slow start to the World Juniors - even he said that. When he got a little more comfortable, he got a little more opportunity.
When I went over and saw him, he was really good. People always tend to evaluate and judge kids on their points - and I get it. There are so many things in his game that were going really well. His skating looks really good, his vision, his puck moving ability. He wasn't on their number one power play, but he got some power play time and he moved the puck really well. I think he physically has to get stronger - as everybody knows - but also, I think one of the biggest things for his development is going to be understanding and handling the expectations of everybody after spending some time in the NHL. Everybody had these high expectations for him, he had high expectations of himself. It's not just the on ice stuff, it's the off-ice stuff as well.
Video: WPG@PIT: Heinola buries one-timer for first goal
DYLAN SAMBERG, 20, D (Minnesota-Duluth NCAA) 28 GP-1G-20A
Dylan had really looked forward to returning to college this season to try to do something that would have been a tremendous feat, try to three-peat a National Championship. Unfortunately, that quest was derailed when his season was cancelled. While Dylan had to endure several injuries throughout the season that tested his ability to bounce back and get back up to speed. His final weekend saw him peaking at the right time while collecting a career high four assists in one game. He is going to become a player that will solid two-way type of game.
Physically, mentally he's maturing. All those things you need to do to get ready and prepared to play in the National Hockey League is something he's been able to do this year.
Video: 19-20 Dylan Samberg Highlights
MIKHAIL BERDIN, 21, G (Manitoba AHL) 20-21-1 2.89 GAA .910 SV%
He is understanding professional hockey and the importance of what he can and can't do. There's a learning curve for him at the pro level about what's going to be acceptable and what's not. He was such a good puck moving goalie, which is part of his game - which is good but can have some drawbacks. He's got to figure out how he can make it work at the pro level. He would make mistakes at the junior level and that wouldn't result in as many mistakes or into the back of his net as it would at the pro level. He's learning to adapt to that style of game, learning trust in his defenceman and the rest of his teammates. He's got a great personality. The way he plays the game, he's loved by his teammates and the fans.
Video: 19-20 Mikhail Berdin Highlights
KRISTIAN VESALAINEN, 20, W (Manitoba AHL) 60 GP 12G-18A
This has been a great development year for Kristian. He still had some stuff to work on when the year started - foot speed, puck handling skills, moving his feet, shooting the puck and not just relying on power play situations. He's gotten to a point where he is figuring that out on a consistent basis.
Video: 19-20 Vesalainen Highlights
LOGAN STANLEY, 21, D (Manitoba AHL) 44 GP 3G-7A
I think 'Stan' is trying to figure out how to be consistent. He's had some injury troubles. He's figuring out how to use his size and strength because it is good - but using it in a positive way where he can influence players, the play and the game - that is something trending in the right direction.
Video: 19-20 Logan Stanley Highlights
DECLAN CHISHOLM, 20, D (Peterborough OHL) 59 GP 13G-56A
He definitely has some great abilities skating, puck moving, finding lanes, getting to the net, jumping down the wall and shooting the puck. I think he knows he has to work on the defensive side of his game and defending in his own zone and closing in on guys quick. Strength is definitely one of his things that he has to work on going forward.
Video: 19-20 Declan Chisholm Highlights
LEON GAWANKE, 20, D (Manitoba AHL) 48 GP 4G-22A
He's been a pleasant surprise for us. He had a good junior career. His skill, his ability to shoot the puck and his skating ability - we weren't sure exactly how that was going to translate to the pro game. We thought that maybe it was going to take a bit longer for him to develop. Mentally and physically he was able to make that jump to the pro level. He still has to get stronger, still has to be able to compete for those pucks in front of the net, in the corner.
Video: 19-20 Leon Gawanke Highlights
JOHNATHAN KOVACEVIC, 22, D (Manitoba AHL) 45 GP 4G-8A
I know he's a little bit older than Leon, but I would say the process has been similar. We were fortunate enough to get him to the American League last year at the end of season year. It helped him understand what pro hockey was like and what he was going to need to do at that level going forward.
That transition has been pretty good for him. He has to work on his foot speed and his leg strength and being able to use his size and strength. He's still growing into his body. On the positive side he's been able to use his shot, getting shots through, finding lanes. He's got pretty good vision in finding players through the neutral zone, breakouts and stuff like that.
Video: 19-20 Kovacevic Highlights
NATHAN SMITH, 21, C (Minnesota State - Mankato NCAA) 35 GP 9G-18A
I like things with him skating wise, skill wise, his compete level. He's been a little inconsistent in his game but I think there is a lot of positives. I really like Nathan; I think he's a very skilled player. Probably one of our most skilled prospects. I think he brings a lot to the table and he's going to be exciting to watch in the next little while and he's on a good team and is playing with good players.
Video: 19-20 Nathan Smith Highlights
HENRI NIKKANEN, 18, C (Jukurit SM-liiga) 27 GP 0G-3A
Henri has been healthy. I think his groin bothered him at the beginning of the year and I think he was a little tentative with it because of the injury that he had last year. He's had an up and down season and I think he's learning as he gets older about playing against men in the Elite League over there. Learning how to physically compete against bigger, stronger players.
SIMON LUNDMARK, 19, D (Linkoping HC Sweden) 40 GP 0G-3A
I'm excited about Simon. We didn't get to see him at development camp. I've been over there twice to see him. The first time I saw him and he was with the juniors and you could tell he'd been playing at the top level in Sweden for a while because he was miles ahead of everybody at the junior level. Then I went and saw him just after Christmas in the SHL and he was brilliant. He's a good puck moving defenceman, good skating, but he still has to work on his skating to get quicker in his feet - but good strength in his legs. He moves the puck like an NHL defenceman already. He passes the puck hard, on the tape. He knows where it's going, he's got good vision and he gets himself out of trouble just by moving the puck.